People who think my interest in food is due to my being some kind of gourmet are mistaken. While it is true that I appreciate good quality ingredients prepared with skill and attention (and love), what I’m really interested in is how to bring good, healthy eating out of the ivory towers and into my (our) everyday life.
That doesn’t mean we must sup on exotic meats in rarefied sauces on a daily basis. It just means that we should be aware of what we are eating, so we can differentiate between healthy food and crap food. For example, I tend to shun so-called “light” versions of foods, because in order to achieve “lightness” the food factory usually compensates by adding some other crap that they hope will fly below our “lightness” radar, like loads of extra salt, artificial thickeners, chemical sweeteners, and saturated fats.
In general, my theme is that the less “factory food” you eat, the better off you will be. Factory food is stuff made from food but processed and packaged until it doesn’t resemble anything that you would ever make from scratch. It tends to emphasize salt, grease, or sugar (or a combination of those) as its primary source of “flavour.”
But not all factory food is terrible stuff that you find in low-end grocery stores. Many of the finer products on your grocer’s shelves qualify once you look at the ingredients. Often this stuff poses as healthy food by being brightly-colored, or by having some aspect of fruit or vegetables in it. A classic case is “Sunny D,” the “fruit drink” formerly known as “Sunny Delight.”
Sunny D has been available in the U.S. in one incarnation or other since 1964. Its popularity has grown immensely, and in 1998 it was launched in the U.K. in the midst of a huge, £10 million promotional campaign. It quickly became the third most popular soft drink there.
Recently, however, sales have started to drop. Apparently, people in the U.K. are actually starting to pay attention to what they eat. They’ve noticed that Sunny D, which presents itself as a juice-like drink, is composed of only 15% juice. The rest is water, sugar, modified food starches, various gums for artificial thickening, and even vegetable oil.
Things came to a head when a girl in the U.K. turned orange after drinking a huge quantity of the stuff. That was due more to the excessive quantity of her intake than to a problem with the drink (the color change was a result of an overdose of carotene — which would have happened even if it had been organic carrot juice straight from Grandma’s garden). But the incident raised a red flag in the public consciousness, particularly as it coincided with an unfortunate ad campaign that featured a snowman turning orange after drinking Sunny D.
U.K. sales are so bad that some grocery chains have taken the product off the shelves.
As for this side of the pond, Sunny D is countering our burgeoning awareness of crappy factory food by launching a huge national marketing campaign in the U.S.
Don’t fall for it. If you want a fruity drink, drink some fruit juice! If you find it too acidic, dilute it with some sparkling mineral water, or make your own blends (the classic orange-pineapple will never lose its appeal). But please, for the sake of your health and well being, join me in shunning factory-made processed imitations of real food.